About the Estonian People’s Assembly in 2013

The People’s Assembly Rahvakogu was a platform of crowd-sourcing ideas and proposals to amend Estonia’s electoral laws, political party law, and other issues related to the future of democracy in Estonia. People’s Assembly took place in 2013 as the biggest (and the first) deliberative democracy initiative in Estonia.

The four-months assembly focused specifically on five questions: the electoral system, political parties, competition between the political parties and their internal democracy, financing of the political parties, strengthening the role of civic society in politics between the elections, and stopping the politicization of public offices. The Assembly combined modern communication tools with traditional face-to-face discussions.

Structure of the People’s Assembly in 2013

January 2013: proposals and comments were gathered and supported or criticized online at rahvakogu.ee, built on Icelandic Your Priorities web application. Within three weeks more than 3000 ideas were submitted, half of them concerning elections. The online platform also provided an opportunity to comment, support or criticize the submitted proposals. Together with added comments the 200 registered users of rahvakogu.ee inserted around 6000 posts.  This phase of the Assembly process was open to everybody.

February 2013: analysts grouped the proposals and comments into 59 bundles of different possible scenarios and provided them with impact analysis. Each of the five main topics was divided into a number of subtopics. Around 30 experts contributed with their professional knowledge by giving an impact assessment of citizens’ policy porposals regarding what implementation of the proposals would bring.

March 2013 five thematic seminars on five mentioned topics were held to chose which proposals to submit to the “deliberation day”. During the five seminars that were held, political representatives, experts, and citizens who had contributed to the original proposals in the crowdsourcing process deliberated upon the submitted ideas. The overall aim of the thematic seminars was to single out which of the ideas put forward on the online platform could best solve the problems that led to the creation of the Assembly initiative. As a result, 18 most important issues were selected for the deliberation day

April 2013: the Citizen Assembly Day was held on 6 April, 2013. A stratified random sample from different subsets of the population was selected to participate in the deliberation day. The selection took into account characterization such as place of residence, age and sex to have a representative body of Estonian society. Of the 550 people who were invited, 314 citizens actually chose to participate. The 18 proposals were discussed in the tables of approximately 10 people. Every table was hosted by a moderator to assist the deliberation process. The participants were handed briefing materials regarding each proposal, including the assessments of the experts. Every table’s preferences were eventually aggregated into a group preference via voting. As a result, 15 out of 18 proposals were selected to be sent to the Estonian parlament, the Riigikogu, for legislative amendments.

The proposals were then presented to the Estonian parliament, Riigikogu, by the President of the Republic, Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

By summer 2014, three proposals out of the 15 that were sent to the parliament had become laws. In addition, four proposals had been partly implemented or redefined as commitments in the government coalition programme. Read more from the analysis of the impacts of the People’s Assembly by Praxis Centre for Policy Studies (2014).

The People’s Assembly was organized by volunteers from various non-governmental organizations, such as the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, the Praxis Centre for Policy Studies, Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations, the e-Governance Academy, the Open Estonia Foundation, as well as political parties, IT and communications professionals, and others.

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Results of the People’s Assembly

  • The right to collectively address the Parliament of Estonia emerged, endabling citizens to propose ideas or change laws with 1000 (digital) signatures. The Parliament needs to hold a hearing and respond to the address in 6 month.
  • The funding of political parties was made fairer and sanctions toughened for illegal donations.
  • The treshhold to form a political party and participate in elections was lowered.
  • The state funding for parties below the polling treshhold was increased.
  • Success of the first experiment of its kind in Estonia: high turnout of randomly selected citizens on the Deliberation Day, thousands of ideas and comments submitted, increased awareness of participants, proposals sent to the parliament and some of them realised.
  • A massive crowdsourcing and collaboration effort: altogether 3000 people from civic organisations, political parties, media, universities and think tanks were involved in organising the Assembly over three months.
  • Huge international attention: at the end of 2013 the People’s Assembly was one of the Bright Spot competitors at the Open Government Partnership Summit in London.Watch Urmo Kübar, the head of the Network of Estonian Non-government Organisations, presenting the People´s Assembly:

 


Analytical coverage of the People’s Assembly

 

News, reflections and opinions about the People’s Assembly process

 

If you want to know more, please write to info@kogu.ee